And another thing. Software demos need serious help

SalesmanMost product demos are really terrible. SEs – at least a lot of the ones that I’ve seen – love to focus on the product features, but forget that they have an audience with specific goals and problems, and the audience doesn’t really care about the software; they care about achieving their own goals or solving a problem.

Recently I invited a vendor in for a discussion about his product. I won’t name the vendor, but the ironic thing is that their software is aimed at product marketing people, so they should know a thing or two about product demos. But their sales call was a lot like most of the sales calls I’ve seen: the sales person did the intros, and then handed the floor over to the SE, who launched in to a 60 minute, non-stop, all talking, all the time, explanation of each Tab and Checkbox in their interface.

I was stunned. And frankly, very annoyed. I even tried to stop him several times to explain my needs, but he kept on going. When there were 15 minutes left in our scheduled meeting, I tried to wrap up the demo, but he wouldn’t hear of it. “There are just two more tabs I want to show you!” At that point I nearly lost it, but I said as politely as I could that we needed to wrap up. I said it was unfortunate that we missed covering the scenarios that interested me, and he replied that “I’m sorry, there’s just so much in the product that it’s hard to cover it all in an hour.”

I was inconsolable.

But let’s not blame the SE here. In order to do a good demo, a few pieces need to be in place. The sales person needs to do their homework to map the audience to a set of roles, and then determine the needs of each person in the room, and those needs should be stated in terms of a goal to be achieved or a problem to be solved. From there, a demo flow can be created marketing to show scenarios of how those people can achieve their goals or solve their problems. If there are multiple roles present, we can show how they would collaborate using the product to achieve a goal.

If my friend the SE above had this information, and some serious training on Product Usage, he could have covered everything I needed to know in about 20 minutes. Instead we spent 60, and I didn’t know whether I could do what I wanted with his product.

All of this relies on a core understanding of the target users and buyers for a product, and what their typical goals are. We also need to map our capabilities to the users’ goals.

I also believe that the demo is misused by selling people. But I’ll take that on in a future post.


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